The final night of the 2011 Minneapolis Grand Prix featured some really hot-and-cold racing. Namely, some of the races were fabulous competitions that saw great finishes, whereas others were total superstar domination.
The great Michael Phelps fell into the latter of those categories with his win in the 200 IM in 1:57.58, which put him roughly 4-seconds ahead of runner-up Darian Townsend. That capped off a 5-for-5 meet for Phelps, with this being the most dominant (and perhaps the biggest statement) of the group. Since the 2008 Olympics, that’s Phelps’ 2nd-fastest non-Championship time in the event, which is an indicator that he’s going to be serious competition for the new World Record holder Ryan Lochte at the Olympics.
Youngster Missy Franklin was involved in a few of each type of race in a kamikaze final-day meet schedule where she swam three consecutive events – which is more typical of what we’re used to seeing from her at these Grand Prix meets. Ironically, she came up short in the first one before winning the last two as fatigue (should have begun to) set in.
In the first, the 200 IM, Katie Hoff and Liz Pelton were locked up in a great battle at the top, with Hoff coming out on top 2:12.02 to 2:12.23. Franklin touched 3rd in 2:13.12. This made a sweep of the IM races for Hoff, and let us digress for a minute to overanalyze her meet schedule. She sat out the 400 free, which is a race she swam at the World Championships, She swam the three shortest freestyles (50-100-200), both IM’s, and the 200 breaststroke. That lineup leads one to believe that she might be giving serious consideration to making a serious run at the IM races at the Olympic Trials, which her fans have been clamoring for since her runner-up performance at the post-Worlds National Championships this summer.
The rest of the day for the women would belong to the 16-year old Franklin. She took a huge win in the 200 back in 2:08.03, with Lauren Lavigna as the runner-up in 2:12.85. Minnesota’s Tess Behrens continued her impressive sophomore season with a 2:14.53 for 5th-place, which is a career-best for her. French swimmer Laure Manaoudou, who has been relatively quiet at this meet so far, was also in the A-Final, though she added a lot of time off of her prelims swim and finished 8th.
In the 100 free, Franklin victored again, though this time she had a much bigger battle, in 54.27. Allison Schmitt, coming off of a runner-up performance in the 800 free, took 2nd in 54.69, followed by Amanda Weir in 54.80. Schmitt’s mark was a career-best for her (clearing by .02 her time from Nationals). She’s really shown great improvement in the shorter 100 (which is not unexpected given how strong she’s been in the race in college) and it’s looking more-and-more like she might have a shot at the 400 free relay in London.
In the 800 free, Schmitt (8:35.12) won a battle with budding open water star Ashley Twichell (8:35.61) for 3rd place, but a tight finish there came down to the closing length between France’s Camille Muffat and American Chloe Sutton. After the race, Sutton expressed some measure of disappointment in the time, saying that she “really wanted to break (8:)30”.
Sutton started the race strong, and had a strong lead at the halfway mark. Muffat chased her down and overtook the lead with a few laps to go, and was able to hold off Sutton at the end.
The men’s 200 back field was without Ryan Lochte, who was the top seed in the morning in a 2:00.49, and Tyler Clary the win in 1:58.39 over a somewhat weakened field. Lochte’s new training partner Arkady Vyatchanin placed 4th in 2:01.33, but nobody aside from Clary broke two-minutes.
Brett Fraser continued an impressive meet with a 100 free win in 48.88. That’s the 2nd-best time of his career (and best in textile). He’s been on fire this weekend, which is odd when compared to the dragging in-season swims that some of his Gator Swim Club training partners have been putting up. He beat out Clement Lefert in 49.44, with South African Gideon Luow in 3rd in 49.58.
This race had the same top-4 as the 50 free, though not the exact order, but still an American missed the podium. The top finisher was Garrett Weber-Gale in 49.93 for 4th.
And finally, in the 1500 free, Trojan’s Ous Mellouli took a win in 15:15.50 ahead of Michael Klueh 15:17.44. Nobody else in the field was close.
Full meet results here.